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Dental 911: Dealing with Emergencies





Professional Care


Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

Apply ice to the area.

Rinse your mouth with warm water.

Remove food particles between teeth with dental floss.

Don’t use heat.

Don’t place an aspirin or other pain reliever directly on the tooth or gum.

Don’t eat very hot, cold, sweet, or spicy foods.


Call your dentist for advice.

Have the tooth examined as soon as possible.

Broken tooth

Gather the broken pieces and rinse your mouth with warm water.

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

Place dental wax or chewing gum over sharp edges to prevent damage to mouth tissues.


Don’t eat hard foods.

Call your dentist immediately for breaks that involve the dentin or pulp.

Call dentist as soon as possible for crown or enamel-only fractures.

Knocked-out tooth

Pick up tooth by the crown, not the root.

Rinse off blood or dirt with milk, or cold running water if milk isn’t available.

Reinsert the tooth into the socket if possible and hold it in place by pressing gently with your finger or by biting a clean cloth. If reinsertion isn’t possible, place the tooth in a container of milk. Or, as a last resort, wrap it in a damp cloth.


Don’t touch or scrub the root.

Get to the dentist immediately. Teeth that are replanted in the mouth within 30 minutes of the injury have the best chances for survival.

Broken or lost filling or crown

Save the filling or crown, and bring it to your dentist.

Apply dental wax to any sharp edges to protect mouth tissues.

Use denture adhesive to temporarily reattach a crown until you get to the dentist.


Don’t try to replace the filling yourself.

Don’t eat very hot or cold foods.

Make an appointment as soon as possible.

Bleeding from cuts in the mouth or after a tooth extraction

Use clean gauze to apply pressure to the area for five minutes.

If bleeding continues, press a moistened tea bag against the cut for five minutes.

Don’t rinse your mouth.

Call your dentist if you are unable to stop the bleeding.

Go to the hospital emergency room if you can’t reach your dentist and bleeding is significant.


Mouth sores

Rinse with warm salt water.

Apply a piece of ice or a paste made from baking soda and water to the sore for a few minutes.

Use over-the-counter anesthetics (Orajel, etc.) for temporary relief.

Don’t put aspirin on the sore.

Don’t use steroid creams.

Don’t take antibiotics unless they are prescribed for this problem.

Don’t use hot packs.


If the problem doesn’t clear up in a week, see your dentist, as this may be a sign of a more serious problem.

Broken dental appliances

Save all the pieces and bring them to your dentist.

Cover protrusions with dental wax to prevent irritation to mouth tissues.

Remove the denture until you can get to the dentist.

Don’t try to glue pieces back together yourself.

Don’t try to bend the wire clasps of a partial denture back into place.

Don’t wrap pieces in tissue, which can be thrown away by mistake.

See your dentist as soon as possible.


Source: Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums. Copyright © by Harvard University. All rights reserved.

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